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A hypnotist is one who induces a hypnotic state on his subjects, which usually include audiences or hypnotherapy patients. Such a hypnotic state typically involves strong focus, heightened suggestibility, and decreased awareness of the surrounding environment. A hypnotist typically brings an individual or group to this state through a process of suggestions and instructions. Hypnosis does not always need multiple people; self-induced hypnosis, or autosuggestion, is also a common therapeutic practice.
The term hypnotism was actually derived from the term neurohypnotism, which means “nervous sleep.” Many believe that a hypnotic state is similar to sleep and that a hypnotized individual is actually unconscious and entirely under the control of the hypnotist. This belief is false; scientists have shown that an individual in a hypnotized state is actually fully awake, but in a highly suggestible state.
A skilled hypnotist could choose to do one of many different things with his abilities, as hypnotism has uses in the fields of medicine, therapy, and performing arts. Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis used for therapeutic purposes, has been used, with varying degrees of success, to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological afflictions. Stage hypnosis is likely the most widely-known form of hypnosis; stage hypnotists hypnotize willing audience members and set them to a variety of unusual activities.
Hypnotists have used hypnotherapy in many different clinical situations, and have had great success in some. A hypnotist can, in some cases, help an individual to reduce pain from almost any source and can aid in weight loss. Hypnotists are often employed to help people overcome addictions. Sometimes, hypnotherapy is simply used as a method of relaxation for those with high stress or sleeping problems. Hypnotherapy has even been used, with encouraging results, as a treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
In stage hypnosis, the hypnotist is working purely to entertain the audience, often in a club or theater. Often, the hypnotist will utilize a variety of deceptive, showy stage tricks to fool the audience into believing that they are truly hypnotized, though some degree of actual hypnosis may be involved. Generally, stage hypnotists take advantage of a combination of normal human suggestibility and of the social pressure exuded by the rest of the members of the audience. In some cases, stage hypnotists will whisper commands to volunteers out of earshot of the rest of the audience. Those who do not resist or challenge the suggestion of the stage hypnotist, though, may very well find themselves hypnotized.